Saturday, February 03, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 3.2.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • The Guardian's take on the latest development in Cataluña.
  • Rather more fascinating news from that paper, about a long-lost novel.
  • Still they come . . . Another list from The Local: 10 things not to do when eating with Spaniards. Again.
  • That Times article on how to be Spanish has caused an even greater brouhaha that I'd thought. Even the British ambassador has got involved, to apply his pennyworth of salve to Spanish wounds - via this conciliatory tweet: Españoles y británicos tenemos muchas que nos unen, y más allá de los tópicos, somos amigos y aliados. Disfrutamos de tantas cosas, de nuestras culturas, gastronomías, historias. Estudiamos juntos, aprendemos juntos y trabajamos juntos. And here's a chap called Simon Hunter with a semi-critical, semi-supportive article in El País in English. As you'd expect, he accuses Haslam of 'missing the mark' and then (accurately) delineates negatives about Brits and positives about Spaniards. Finally, here's the translation of a draft of a letter to ABC which I probably won't send. If only because the paper demands not only my full name and address, email and telephone number but also my ID. Can you imagine having to provide your passport number for a letter to, say, the Times?:- Señor Director: What a disappointment, the vengeful article of Mr. Álvaro Martínez about the faults of the British – which is what the Spaniards usually call the English! I'm an Englishman who's been in Spain for over 17 years and - without a doubt - I could write more severe and much, much more accurate, relevant and amusing criticisms about my compatriots. For example, the many hidden and stupid rules of British public and private behaviour. But I don't need to. Because the English anthropologist - Kate Fox - has written a wonderful book on this subject - "Watching the English". Which can you buy here on So, I recommend that Mr. Martínez reads this book before writing again on this subject. Unfortunately, as yet there's no Spanish translation. But, since Sr Martínez knows Britons so well, I'm sure he can read it in its original form. It'll give him a lot of ammunition for his campaign.
The EU
  • Silvio Berlusconi is on the brink of being back in power in Italy. Perhaps he's not as bad as we external observers think. For an (Italian) Economist correspondent once said of him: Compared to Donald Trump, Berlusconi looks like Winston Churchill.
  • The pessimistic view: Nearly every regulatory institution in Trumpville tasked with monitoring the financial system is now run by someone who once profited from bending or breaking its rules. Historically, severe financial crises tend to erupt after periods of lax oversight and loose banking regulations. By filling America’s key institutions with representatives of just such negligence, Trump has effectively hired a team of financial arsonists. Naturally, Wall Street views Trump’s chosen ones with glee. Amid the present financial euphoria of the stock market, big bank stock prices have soared. But one thing is certain: When the next crisis comes, it will leave the last meltdown in the shade because our financial system is, at its core, unreformed and without adult supervision. Banks not only remain too big to fail but are still growing, while this government pushes policies guaranteed to put us all at risk again. There’s a pattern to this: First, there’s a crash; then comes a period of remorse and talk of reform; and eventually comes the great forgetting. As time passes, markets rise, greed becomes good, and Wall Street begins to champion more deregulation. The government attracts deregulatory enthusiasts and then, of course, there’s another crash, millions suffer, and remorse returns. Ominously, we’re now in the deregulation stage following the bull run. We know what comes next, just not when. Count on one thing: It won’t be pretty. Don't ever say you weren't warned!
The UK
  • News of an interesting new bar in Liverpool: 'Peaky Blinders', a new bar themed around the TV series, had a must-see detail. The bar staff are dressed as Peaky Blinders characters. The head barman has copied gangster Thomas Shelby to a tee: haircut, cap, three-piece suit and horsehead tie-pin. If I'd seen an episode of the series, I might know what all that means.
The English Language
  • 'To take the Mickey' used to mean to make fun of. Now it means – to the younger generation of Brits anyway - to take advantage of. As in this headline in The Times this morning:- How travel firms take the Mickey with huge school holiday price rises. One site I favour gives these 3 Spanish alternatives for the phrase, all of them in line with its previous meaning:- recochinearse/ cachondearse/vacilar de alguien. I wonder what up-to-speed dictionaries say.
The Gender/Generational Wars
  • Below is an article from a female Guardian columnist who's trying to bring together the 3(?) generations of feminists on the subject of the patriarchy. I asked my 2 daughters – the offspring of first-generation feminist parents – what they thought of it, but they both said they're too busy living to read it . . .  
Nutters Corner
  • Michele Bachmann - the woman who made Sarah Palin look sane – says she's waiting for a sign from God as to whether she should run for a Minnesota Senate seat. Let's hope God is wise enough to ignore her. Or sky-write a large No. Or perhaps send down a well-targeted thunderbolt.
  • Right on cue - after my comments yesterday morning - our local papers have reported that the majority of minor car crashes occur on roundabouts. As if we couldn't guess. BTW - These are called accidentes de chapa in Spanish.  Literally 'metal/door panel accidents'.
  • A couple of local fotos:-
The old beggar who used to drag a puppy round with him:-

The dangerous wall below the pilgrims' hostal:-

When I walked past it in early January, the road was blocked but the pavement wasn't. Since then, as you can see, someone has had the sense to stop pedestrians walking below it.

Today's Cartoon


That's patriarchy: how female sexual liberation led to male sexual entitlement: Van Badham

It’s understandable that intergenerational battles over feminism come down to the meaning of consent

It was the journalist Julia Baird who wrote on Twitter: YOUNG FEMINISTS: What do you think older feminists don’t understand or get exactly right, or just might miss about #metoo, if anything? Am curious to hear.

Baird’s question appears in the context of high-profile disagreements about #MeToo between some young and older feminists. A few weeks ago, French actor Catherine Deneuve and 100 co-signatories of a letter claimed #MeToo was fostering a “new Puritanism” – a position from which she has since somewhat backed away. Since then, a widely-reported interview with Germaine Greer has appeared, in which the Australian feminist accused the #MeToo movement of “whingeing”.

There is – of course, and as always – more nuance to Greer’s position than her gruff soundbites suggest. Greer’s analysis remains one of unequal power between the genders and the patriarchal structure and domination of power systems such as the law. In the context where “powerful men ... are already briefing their lawyers”, her stated fear is that “the women who have given testimony now will be taken to pieces”.

Her anxiety here is not unique. But those women already feel taken to pieces also by Greer, who said: “if you spread your legs ... it’s too late now to start whingeing about that.”

Greer and the Deneuve group are #notallolderfeminists. Baird’s question, however, is a useful means to explore not only some contrast in inter-generational feminisms, but the vast experiential differences between the generations themselves.

The Deneuve/Greer analysis originates from a period in which having casual sex, multiple partners and sex outside of marriage were acts in defiance of old patriarchal taboos. We forget, in the west, just how transformative the past few decades have been.

Consider that when Deneuve appeared onscreen as the curious bourgeois sexual day-labourer in 1967’s Belle Du Jour, representations of sex itself were considered so scandalous that Britain was still operating under full theatre censorship. In Australia, sexy books like Lady Chatterley’s Lover were subject to an import ban. On American television, even married couples on TV sitcoms were depicted in separate beds.

Sexual freedom has become another realm of women’s experience for patriarchy to conquer.

The right for women to escape the passive sexual role obliged of them by culture – the imperative to do so in the cause of women’s liberation – is at the heart of Greer’s demands in her 1970 manifesto, The Female Eunuch. In the world the book depicts of the lonely housewife “staring at the back of her husband’s newspaper”, a realised female sexuality is a militant act of revolt.

The restrictions placed on female agency at the time – especially through the institution of marriage, which women entered younger and were less enfranchised to leave than now – are staggering to imagine. Only in 1965 did married women in France obtain the right to work without their husbands’ consent. In Australia, married women could not apply for passports without their husband’s approval until 1983. Britain did not make marital rape illegal until 1991.

For feminists who survived those generations, it must seem extraordinary to have battled at such risk for liberation to hear younger women discuss sexual contracts, a desire for boundaries, a wish not to be sexualised by men in their lives. Given the emergence of their generation from socially-enforced cocoons of sexual repression, where actual laws existed to culturally erase women’s sexuality, it must look like regress to older women.

But what has happened in the intervening decades is that sexual freedom has become another realm of women’s experience for patriarchy to conquer. As soon as older feminists had won sexual liberation, patriarchy reframed it as sexual availability for men. Writer David Quinn was actually having a pop at #MeToo feminism in The Times when he stumbled onto an eloquent truth: “The only sexual rule today is ‘consent’, and men have been taught that women are potentially always sexually available because that is what ‘liberation’ means.”

Where once the patriarchal structures of cultural production were censorious of women’s sexuality in film, art, literature, now the depiction of it is hypersexualised and explicit – but the structures of production remain just as patriarchal.

The flipside to the destigmatisation of sex for women has been a sense of patriarchal entitlement to sex with women, which is why the painful conversation about consent in our new era of “freedom” must be confronted. One in 10 women, as opposed to one in 70 men, report they’ve been coerced into sex, the vast majority by an intimate partner.

Those doubting the assumptions informing the delicate and dangerous reality of the new sexual era need only read the studies quoted in Lili Loofbourow’s recent chilling analysis in The Week: the price of male pleasure is indeed the value of female pain.

And ubiquitous female sexualisation has manifested a reality in which young women find themselves in unwittingly sexualised situations all the time. Young women are right to feel that destigmatised sex has enhanced their traditional patriarchal status as sex objects, not liberated them from it.

“To all the grown men out there,” CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins was obliged to instruct in the wake of another GOP sexual harassment scandal last week, “the younger women who work for you don’t want to date you; do not want to be your soul mate; do not want to go to icecream with you; do not want to be your partner.”

Is it the pervasiveness of these assumptions and the lived reality of their consequences that, perhaps, some of our feminist antecedents don’t understand? If we know the power systems that exist are gendered, unequal and unfair, it’s idealism or madness to forget that they yet dog our beds and jobs too.

They will until the systems themselves are upended and transformed. We need an army to do it. #MeToo has enabled a moment of global feminist awakening. YOUNG FEMINISTS, OLDER FEMINISTS – let’s apply our empathy and analysis to one another in both generational directions to keep moving forward.

The patriarchal backlash is already mobilising its lawyers, and defenders. The fight ahead wants unity, not a failure to either remember women’s past, or apply imagination to their present.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

Well, as my - strictly solicited! - comment of yesterday was not appreciated, let me try to be a little more jovial and jocular today. Perhaps that will work...

When it comes to Mr Puigdemont, the grand irony escaped nobody's notice, naturally, that he chose to rent a house in Waterloo, of all symbolic places. But what most people do not know is an ever further irony: his new residence is located on the Rue de l'Avocat, i.e. 'Lawyer's Street'... A novelist would be lambasted by his editor on making something of this sort up...

Then we have Mr Berlusconi, a.k.a. Il Condotierre. He is of course a rogue. But the man does have a splendid, if horrid, sense of humour. Some years ago, caught at his car by a camera and a journalist who asked after the various MeToo-style scandals he was accused of, he answered that it was all a little overdone. 'You see,' he said, 'A polster recently did a survey among Italian women. He asked them: would you sleep with Silvio Berlusconi? 25 % of the women said Yes. The rest of them said: What? Again?'

As Napoleon said: l'audace, toujours l'audace!!!


Maria said...

Accidente de chapa - in Boston parlance, "fender bender." I used to wake up to the news on the radio, and the traffic segment from the helicopter, "Traffic is bumper to bumper on the Expressway, and there's a fender bender at Cleveland Circle."

Sierra said...

Why Liverpool for the "Peaky Blinders" bar? The Peaky Blinders were a criminal gang based in Birmingham during the Victorian era. It is believed that members sewed razor blades into their peaked flat caps so they could headbutt enemies essentially blinding them.

Colin Davies said...